By now we’ve had a week to think about Junior Seau’s death; to reflect on his football legacy and to decide, in our own minds, whether his suicide was caused by too many hits to the head, too much physical pain, etc … etc.
Here’s my take: Retired professional athletes are not designed to live long.
What I mean by this is simple: You are born and bred to do something. You do it—to the highest possible level. You are hailed and celebrated and praised and honored and cheered and sought after. Women love you, kids worship you, fans hang your photographs in their homes. You have a very precise, very detailed, very structured life. You rarely have to write a check or pay a bill. Your meals are provided, your flights booked.
It doesn’t compute. Or make sense. In many cases, you are a physical shell of your former self. Your muscles, once fast and quick, have been pounded and dulled. Your instincts are slow. You struggle to get out of bed every morning, because your back has been cracked 15 times and your knees are like dumbbells.
No one makes plans for you. Your wife is tired of you. Your kids barely know you. Sure, you have a college degree. But you’re in your mid-30s, without any relevant career experience. People love talking about that game against the Colts. But those same people have no interest in making you an executive vice president. You once earned $1.3 million annually. Much of that money is gone, and now you can’t crack $40,000. Someone suggests opening a bar … a restaurant. But you don’t have the capital. You think about writing an autobiography, but nobody cares these days. Publishing companies don’t return your calls. As Eminem says, “You’re cold product.”
This is what it is to be an ex-athlete.